The tragedy of foreclosure came to Antonio Ennis’ doorstep, as it has come to millions across the country. Sitting in the back row of his first Bank Tenant Association (BTA) meeting last March, he was quiet, taking the group’s measure.
In 1999, Antonio bought the Dorchester home he has lived in all his life from his grandfather, and he continues to live there with his family. In the 1990s, he started his own clothing brand, designing fine custom leather apparel and later opened an affordable retail store in Codman Square that solely carried his brand.
After years of success, Antonio lost some rental income and the retail part of his business to the recession. When he fell behind on his mortgage, Bank of America would not work with him. They started the foreclosure process on his home in late 2009. A friend told him about City Life.
That first night, Antonio remained silent, debating whether to “go public” and get involved. While his dilemma was one faced by many new members, for Antonio, there was a twist— his history of celebrity, even notoriety as a rap musician, a well known community member and entrepreneur. Critical of himself for holding back, he returned the following week and every week since then. “The family atmosphere kept drawing me,” he says. He made his way forward and became aggressively active.
On a humid July day, Antonio rallied for hours with others at his first City Life “eviction blockade”— a “last stand” to save a family’s home after foreclosure. Unlike many similar blockades, this one ended painfully with a family Antonio knew being forced out. The emotional reality hit. “This is really happening,” he realized. “This was the defining moment in me becoming totally engaged in social activism and I committed to the fight against social injustice from that day on…”
Antonio takes on leadership every chance he gets. He played instrumental roles in our climactic September 30, 2011 protest targeting Bank of America. He penned a rally song for that occasion entitled “The Bank Attack” which has become a City Life movement anthem. Also, he has released a full-length 16 track album of the same name. Leading up to the march, Antonio led a protest at the Beacon Hill home of Robert Gallery, President of Bank of America- Massachusetts. Fifty activists delivered bags of trash from a foreclosed and neglected Bank of America property to Gallery’s doorstep, along with a life-sized eviction notice. Antonio told the crowd, “…We gotta come here and bring it to their doorstep like they’re bringing it to ours…”
When foreclosure came to Antonio Ennis’ doorstep, he made his decision— to commit 100% to the Bank Tenant movement to end foreclosures and displacement. In his own words: “Whenever, wherever… I’ll still be here fighting…I knew there was a bigger reason for me being here…”
This video was directed by Antonio Ennis (aka Twice Thou) and John Hulsey as a part of The Buyback Initative/Music Group. The article is written by Irene Glassman.
Reggie Fuller and Louanna Hall
Tenants Reggie Fuller and Louanna Hall were faithfully paying rent on their Dorchester apartment when they heard rumors their landlord was in foreclosure. Now, after two years living in limbo as the only remaining tenants in the building, they’ve become leaders in the movement to support others facing displacement after foreclosure.
When Marshall Cooper couldn’t qualify for a traditional mortgage, the bank referred him to an alternative lender who offered him a loan with twice the interest rate. As the expense of caring for his aging parents made it harder and harder to meet his increasing mortgage payments, he fell behind. After two bankruptcies and a failed modification, the house went into foreclosure. Now Marshall, 75, is fighting eviction by the bank and doing everything he can to hold on to his home.
Hear More Stories
We Shall Not Be Moved is an on-going multimedia documentary project by Kelly Creedon, in partnership with City Life/Vida Urbana and the Bank Tenant Association. The project tells the story of a growing grassroots movement that is using the power of bringing people together to help keep families in their homes after foreclosure. The project consists of this website and a traveling exhibit.